40 must-watch movies to consider yourself a film buff

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King Kong (1933)

No, we’re not talking about the 1976 remake starring Jessica Lange nor the 2005 big-budget spectacle helmed by a post-Lord of the Rings Peter Jackson. We’re going all the way to 1933, when the monster movie was a twinkle in the eye of film director Merian C. Cooper.

King Kong may be described as a monster movie, but Cooper does far more with the story of a giant gorilla who is kidnapped, taken to New York City and then wreaks havoc. For starters, if you don’t think there’s a metaphor in that plotline you’re not paying attention. The then-technically revolutionary stop-motion animation looks fantastic, particularly when you factor in all the time it took to move the miniatures around. Actress Fay Wray was forever known as the first “scream queen,” but she’s utterly beautiful in the way 1930s leading ladies were.

She and Bruce Cabot have the requisite amount of chemistry, but we all know you aren’t watching this movie for the human interaction. The lush jungle setting is fantastic and showed the full capabilities of RKO Studios, a Poverty Row outfit that never could truly compete against the more well-funded studios like Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox (though RKO was responsible for putting out a fair share of immortal features).

Sadly, it’s said that the sets for this movie were torn down and set aflame for the “burning of Atlanta” sequence in Gone With the Wind. Talk about beauty killing the beast!

Where to Watch It: TCM will air it July 28 at 12 p.m. ET. It’s also available to rent on Amazon and YouTube.